Photo by thetejon on Flickr.

During last Friday’s online chat, DDOT Director Gabe Klein announced his intention to select a “parking czar” to manage the many pilot programs and other improvements to on-street parking in the District. 

We think this is an excellent idea to apply dedicated management staff to the issue of on-street parking. The many technology pilots, recent changes to evening parking rules, and more need management attention. And without it, DC’s two performance parking pilot districts are being neglected.

In areas with high evening demand, DDOT made a sound policy decision to drop time limits in the evenings, allowing visitors to pay at a meter for as much time as they want. Those visitors can watch a show or have dinner without worrying about running out to “feed the meter” (which is illegal anyway), move their car or go home early.  Combined with proper on-street pricing, this improves the usability of on-street parking by customers. 

But the performance parking districts near the ballpark, Barracks Row and Columbia Heights were exempted from this change.  Why? Certainly customers of the restaurants on Barracks Row, the Ballpark and evening entertainment at Columbia Heights have similar needs as customers in Georgetown or Adams Morgan.

Additionally, last year’s budget approved higher meter prices in “premium demand” areas. The performance parking districts would also be considered “premium demand” according to data DDOT collected. In at least some blocks, prices ought to rise to ensure some availability and equalize supply and demand. In others, they should decrease. According to the act that created them, DDOT is supposed to adjust prices based on demand, but to my knowledge no price changes have ever happened.

The Council’s intent for the performance parking districts was to bring innovative parking policies to those areas. Instead, the opposite has happened. Those have become a “time capsule,” freezing parking policy as of 2008 while other areas are changing time limits, prices, even parking meter technologies.

The Performance Parking Pilot Districts are being left behind.  Price increases will free up spaces to promote access, and provide revenue for local non-transportation improvements.  Price decreases will make an area more affordable and provide a boost to local business.

DDOT sometimes argues that changing the meter prices is hard to do in “semi-real time,” but they managed to change all the other meters in the city based on Council approval when budget pressures created an urgency. 

DDOT should establish a regular process to review and change meter prices.  Start out with adjusting quarterly. Even with maximum adjustments of 50¢/hr each calendar quarter, the prices will approach the most appropriate hourly charge for the District very quickly.